What to do for an encore?
That could be the question rolling around this week inside the head of Brittany Neeley as she prepares to play in the State Finals Saturday in Terre Haute.
The three-sport star athlete from Eastern (Greentown) High School put on a performance to remember in the Class 2-A Semistate girls basketball game Warsaw last Saturday.
Neeley, a 5-7 senior guard, poured in a semistate record 48 points in leading her No. 6 Comets past No. 14 Fort Wayne Bishop Luers 74-55 in front of a packed Tiger Den.
Neeley’s incredible effort put her in some very elite company in the history of the girls basketball state tournament, now in its 38th year in the Hoosier State. The 48 points topped the previous all-time top semi state scoring record of 47 points set by Kennitra Johnson of New Albany in 1999.
The offensive explosion by Neeley, which included 19 points in the fourth quarter, is also tied for the fourth best tournament scoring mark all-time in the girls basketball tournament. Ann Hutcheson of Cloverdale tops the list with 60 points in a 1988 first-round sectional game. Rachel Dixon of South Central (Elizabeth) poured in 54 points in a regional title game in 2003. Hutcheson also scored 48 points, which is fourth on the list, in another sectional game in 1988.
The third highest point total in postseason play in girls history belongs to none other than former Wawasee High School superstar Shanna Zolman. The stellar shooting guard netted 50 points on Feb. 17, 2001 during her junior prep campaign as the Warriors defeated NorthWood 65-59 in a sectional championship game. Zolman went on to set the state’s all-time career scoring record with 3,085 points. She earned Miss Basketball honors in 2002 and went on to play at the University of Tennessee and in the WNBA.
Neeley finished her amazing semi state game in front of about 4,500 fans shooting 13-of-23 from the field, including 3-of-3 from distance. She was 19-of-21 from the free throw line. Neeley, in maybe an even more impressive feat for a 5-7 guard, also had 20 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end. She started slow with just five points in the first quarter as Eastern led Luers 16-11. Neeley had 11 in the second quarter as the Comets led 29-20 at halftime and added 13 in the third period as Eastern took a 48-38 lead. She finished with a bang with 19 points in the final frame in the 74-55 win.
Neeley’s twin sister Bethany had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the semi state win. The victory gave the Comets their first-ever semi state championship.
The amazing thing about the Neeley twins is that basketball is not the top sport for the pair. The duo are both planning to attend Indiana University to run cross country and track for the Hoosiers. The duo led the Eastern cross country team to a seventh place finish in the State Finals this past October, which were held ironically in Terre Haute, which is where both will play this Saturday in the basketball State Finals. Bethany placed fourth individually in the cross country finals, while Brittany was 16th. Bethany was also a state champion in the 1,600-meter run last June at the State Finals held at IU, while Brittany took third place in the 800-meter run.
The Neeleys will lead the Comets into the Class 2-A state championship game set for Saturday. Eastern will face Evansville Mater Dei (27-2) at approximately 12:45 p.m. in the Hulman Center on the Indiana State University campus in Terre Haute.
Brittany Neeley, after her basket-filling performance at the semi state, leads the Comets at 19.2 points-per-game. She also averages 8.9 rebounds and five assists per contest. Bethany averages 15.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Brittany has scored 1,325 career points, while sister Bethany is at 1,072.
Girls Basketball State Finals Pairings
At Hulman Center, Terre Haute
10:30 a.m.: Class 1-A: Fort Wayne Canterbury (24-3) vs. Vincennes Rivet (22-4)
12:45 p.m.: Class 2-A: Eastern (Greentown) (22-3) vs. Evansville Mater Dei (27-2)
6 p.m.: Class 3-A: Hamilton Heights (23-2) vs. Mt. Vernon (Fortville) (22-4)
8:15 p.m.: Class 4-A: Fort Wayne South Side (24-3) vs. Bedford North Lawrence (27-0)